A man found dead by firefighters in a burning Sylmar motel room last week has been identified by family members.
Ray Dominguez told the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol the victim was his father, Mario Dominguez, 62, whose body was discovered by responders to the fire that occurred on Feb. 25.
Mario was found alone in the room. It was the only unit of the 18-unit motel that caught fire. All the other rooms had guests in them, but no other injuries or damage were reported.
Ray is one of Mario’s three children. He has an older brother also named Mario, and a younger sister, Desiree. Ray who grew up in Sylmar moved to Las Vegas in 2005 and came back this week to try to sort out what happened to his father.
He said his father, who grew up in San Fernando, “tried to be a dad to us but he just couldn’t. He tried to live a normal life; he just couldn’t. He had a tragic life with a horrible end; but he was a somebody. He had people who loved and cared for him. His lifestyle made us keep our distance, unfortunately.”
The county coroner’s office has not officially released a name, because the body was burned beyond recognition. A spokesperson said the office was still in the process of confirming the identity and Ray has provided a swab test.
But Ray — who was shown the body at the morgue — has little doubt – the victim he said is his father.
If so, it would be an end to a difficult and somewhat tragedy-filled life. According to Ray, Mario had issues with drug addiction. “But had mental issues all of his life.
“The thing I want everyone to know is my dad wasn’t ‘just an addict.’ He was an addict off and on for 30-40 years,” Ray said. “He was also a paranoid-schizophrenic, and he struggled with taking medication. He took it, then wouldn’t take it. That’s what ruined by dad’s life. He didn’t want to accept his illness and tried to cover it up with drug use.
“But he comes from a very good family; nine brothers and sisters. I don’t see him setting himself on fire. That doesn’t make sense to me.”
Ray said his father had been living in subsidized housing in Tarzana. “But he had an episode last year when he went into someone else’s apartment and they called the cops. His sister was notified and she got him and took him to a hospital. After being released, he came back to his apartment but they just put him out.
“I don’t think they did it the right way,” Ray said. “My dad has been an addict, but at that time he was clean. But he went back to the streets and was using again. This is why we’re taking it so hard. We’re trying to find out why all these things happened.”
He said he hadn’t seen his father for 20 years. But he did stay in touch with his father through texting.
Even with his father’s history, Ray said he and his family want questions answered about his father’s death.
“I filed to get his autopsy report when it comes out, because I want know how my dad died. Was it the burns [that caused his death]? He was using again so did he overdose, or was it the carbon monoxide. I just don’t know how my dad was in a fire,” Ray said.
He came to the San Fernando Valley this week to sign the rights for final arrangements to his aunt Carol, his father’s sister.
“My aunt just saw him three days before [the fire], pleading with him to come to her house and clean up again,” Ray said. “That’s scary thing [about those with mental issues] — they don’t always want to go where they can get help.
“I know my dad, how he was. I know his patterns when he was using. I’m trying to find out what happened. We don’t know if it’s a wrongful death. It’s a bad hotel in a drug-infested area. I’m gonna try to keep figuring this out. That’s why I’m here. I’m not just gonna be ‘Oh, my dad died.’ I want some answers so [the family] can have some closure.”
Fire and police investigators have not released a cause for the motel fire. Those at the scene that day said there was no immediate evidence of a functional smoke alarm.